Coca-Cola readies global assault

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Coca-Cola Co. is preparing a blowout campaign for its flagship brand that's being likened to the launch of New Coke by some and a military assault by others. Ads, tapping the resources of newly christened global marketing partner Interpublic Group of Cos., are being shot around the world, with various U.S. spots showing a biracial teen couple, young people gazing at clouds and preparations for a wedding.

Interpublic Exec VP-Chief Marketing Officer Bruce Nelson, a former McCann-Erickson Worldwide creative, is farming out the work, which one production executive called "a paramilitary operation." In an effort to regain momentum lost to PepsiCo's Pepsi-Cola Co., Coca-Cola has given the go-ahead for as many as 49 scripts. This is believed to be the largest push ever for Coca-Cola, which may shoot 50 to 75 commercials in a given year but not for a single campaign, said an executive familiar with the company. Mr. Nelson did not return calls seeking comment.

According to officials close to the situation, the commercials, shot in the company's top global markets, feature so-called "Coke moments" and pivot off last year's "Bliss comes from within" and "Share something real" ads by Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York. Both showed slice of life moments such as college-aged kids throwing rave parties in the forest or sitting on rooftops to watch the sunrise.

Cliff Freeman executives did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

The feel-good work is slated to break at the end of April and will carry the same theme around the world, according to insiders. Ads are being shot domestically as well as in Brazil, South Africa, Germany, Italy, the U.K., France and Spain, according to another executive close to the marketer. Other possible markets include Singapore, Japan, China and Mexico.

The plan: Coke is going to "get real" in advertising, said an insider, with MTV-inspired spots that focus on real youth. "It's about honesty and frankness and reality, about what's natural," said the insider.

The new tagline is "Life tastes good." However, the word "taste" doesn't translate accurately in many foreign languages, so the marketer is working on other translations for different countries. The campaign, which replaces "Enjoy," will have a strong online presence, said one knowledgeable person.

A spokesman for Coca-Cola North America declined to comment.

Foreign reliance

As the U.S. economy slows, the company increasingly will rely on foreign operations to improve business. Last week, the company said case volume should grow about 5% internationally this quarter, compared with just about 1% in North America, its biggest market.

The ads marshal the resources of Interpublic in its global alliance announced in December (AA, Dec. 4). Domestically, McCann-Erickson, New York, is producing three spots; Amster Yard, New York, is handling five, including the biracial spot; and dRush, New York, a division of the network's Deutsch, has gotten the nod for four. Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, is producing three promotional spots to tie in with the movie "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." McCann offices around the world are creating the remainder, according to executives close to the marketer.

As part of Coca-Cola's high-level diversity push, Amster Yard is filming one of the company's few commercials with a biracial couple, in which a white teen-age suitor arriving at the house of his black date has an awkward moment with her father until they share a Coke. A corresponding ad is said to feature a black couple, although that could not be confirmed. The agency did not return telephone calls.

Another Amster Yard spot features a teen couple lying under the shade of an oak tree. "The shade of the tree covered us from our heads to our knees," reads a treatment for the spot. "We sipped our Cokes meditatively." One of the teenagers then comments, "Have you considered that, by the time the sun moves from our toes to our nose, we'll be that much closer to graduation ... to adulthood?" The two youths then move back into the shade. "Stopping the passage of time," reads the treatment. "One more minute to enjoy the shade of childhood. Just watching clouds roll by."

In "Spanish Wedding," a beautiful Latin woman dresses for her big day. While soaking in the moment, she motions to a little girl standing nearby holding a can of Coke with a straw in it. The girl serves the Coke. "The bride-to-be takes a dainty sip," reads the treatment, "but her satisfaction is apparent." The tagline follows.

The world's largest soft drink marketer spends $900 million in global advertising for the brand. It's pledged to spend an additional $300 million to $400 million on marketing this year, although that will be divided among several brands.

Coca-Cola is the country's leading soft drink with 20% market share, but sales have been anemic, last year growing less than 1%, according to Beverage Digest. "The health of the Coca-Cola Co. is intrinsically tied to the growth of brand Coke, and getting brand Coke into a strong growth mode has to be one of the company's highest priorities," said John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest.

Contributing: Laura Q. Hughes

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